Think back to your childhood for a moment.
Was it a time of “practice” and experimentation that was met with resistance or acceptance?
If your childhood was a time where your parents or guardians met everything you did with judgment and resistance, it wouldn’t surprise me if you were afraid to fail.
In this article, I will discuss Atychiphobia and a few signs you may fear failure.
Atychiphobia is said to affect between 2%-5% of the population (Penn State, 2015). is the unwarranted chronic and persistent fear of doing something wrong in your life or making any kind of mistake. Anything that signals failure will result in internalized shame, more fear, and increased anxiety. In some severe cases, atychiphobia can result in depression and feelings of learned helplessness. If you find it difficult to get out of the house because you fear that you will be the cause of something going wrong, depression is likely to result. If you withdraw and isolate because you fear failing at something, depression is likely to result. Untreated or poorly treated depression and anxiety can then lead to learned helplessness.
It is a vicious cycle. In some ways, atychiphobia has similar characteristics to OCD because of the obsessive thoughts and rumination. There is absolutely no escape from the thought(s) of failure.
Having treated and studied many clients/patients who struggle with fear of failure, I have listed a few common red flags that you may be experiencing atychiphobia:
- Learned helplessness: People who struggle with phobias and extreme fears often develop either internal or external locus of control. Internal locus of control is the idea that everything that goes wrong in your life is attributed to something within yourself and something you feel you don’t have. Individuals who struggle with intense fears may believe that “they do not have what it takes” to overcome the phobia and advance in life. They may then withdraw and isolate from society and activities where failing is likely. External locus of control is the idea that things outside of the individual are to blame for challenges in the person’s life. Someone struggling with atychiphobiamay become afraid of the unpredictability of life and avoid things to avoid feeling inadequate if failure were to occur.
- Perfectionism: Individuals who are perfectionistic often struggle with fear. Perfectionists often want things to be perfect or “orderly.” They are often Type A personalities and very focused on succeeding. Some perfectionists struggle with intense fears that they may fail at something they would rather succeed at. In extreme cases, atychiphobiamay come about through a need for perfection.
- Obsessive thoughts: Obsessive thoughts or rumination is often at the core of anxiety and depression. Having repetitive thoughts that are uncontrollable and bothersome can truly keep one bound and frustrated. Individuals who struggle with fear of failure or other phobias may find themselves obsessing over certain things in life or certain decisions that need to be made. For example, lets say you want to finally get your drivers license that you have avoided for 10 years after turning 25 years old. You finally schedule the driving test and have studied your manual all month. But then you find yourself obsessing over where the actual driving course is, who will be your driving instructor, who you may see in the waiting area, what you might do or say that could result in you failing the test, etc. It’s a never-ending cycle of rumination that becomes an obsession.
So do you think you may fit the criteria of atychiphobia? In the video above I discuss this concept further.
As always, I wish you well
Note: All references are embedded in this article.